Director: Ivan Reitman
Writer: Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis
Principal cast members:
At the top of this review, let's be clear about the nature of this film. It is once again the patented Ramis formula of hip, entertaining slackers versus the establishment - a formula used in Meatballs, Stripes, and Animal House with enormous success. In this case, you can add the twist of two men - Ackroyd and Ramis - setting out to write a vehicle that will take full advantage of the skills and personality of a fine comic actor in the form of Bill Murray. The result was a comedy goldmine.
A synopsis of the plot is enough to evoke laughs without even bringing up the brilliant dialogue the writers produced. Three professors of paranormal studies are ejected from their college campus for their dubious methods and theories. They start their own business as a team that investigates and eliminates paranormal infestations - they are The Ghostbusters. As their business amazingly begins to take off, they discover that a massive uprising in haunted activity in New York is the indication of the emergence of an ancient Babylonian deity bent on total destruction. In this, Ramis has outdone himself. Not only do the slackers triumph over the bullies and emerge triumphant, this time they save the entire world (or at least New York City) in the process.
Murray is the obvious center of the plot. His Professor Peter Venkman can't take anything seriously, including his own career or even the impending destruction of the world. Armed with awesome comic dialogue provided by Ackroyd/Ramis, he carries the movie from beginning to end, providing the greatest laughs with flippant ease. And in this case, he even gets the girl.
The girl is Sigourney Weaver who, though known as a brilliant dramatic actress, seems to turn in some killer performances in comedies. Here, she plays a cellist who owns a beautiful apartment off the park in New York, but discovers that her refrigerator is haunted. She reluctantly calls on the Ghostbusters and has to start wondering if Dr. Venkman's amorous, insincere advances are more of a threat than the terror dog in her fridge.
As sidemen to Murray, Ackroyd and Ramis are in top form. They are geeky academics devoted to a dubious field of pseudo-science and they do it with amazingly oblivious sincerity. There is never any doubt here that these characters exist to set up Venkman's best lines, but they do it so well.
Meanwhile, Moranis turns in a fine performance as Louis Tulley, a hopelessly nerdy accountant who desperately pursues Weaver and eventually finds himself possessed by powers far beyond our world. Before the end of the film, he transforms into a terror dog, is neutronized by the combined atomic power of the Ghostbusters, and is buried in tons of charred marshmallow. His assessment? "Felt great!"
Annie Potts puts on a first-rate Bronx accent and attitude as the Ghostbusters ball-busting receptionist. Needing more help, the Ghostbusters eventually add a fourth team member in the form of Ernie Hudson. Hudson, as Winston Zeddemore, actually comes across as the most normal and mentally balanced member of the team, though that's not a large accomplishment.
Worth mentioning in the review is William Atherton. Atherton has made a career of playing white-collar heavies in a number of films and he's excellent here as an agent of the EPA who shuts down the Ghostbusters and unwittingly unleashes a paranormal assault on the city.
While building on a tired formula used repeatedly by Ramis and company, Ghostbusters still managed to be one of the freshest and most original comedies of its time. It benefitted from some of the best comic dialogue to come out of the Second City Alumni writing legacy as well as a cool comic concept. On top of that, it had first rate comic acting from a team of players who obviously loved their roles. One of the few movies that actually caused me to fall out of my theater seat with laughter, Ghostbusters was one of the funniest products of the SNL alumni and remains so to this day.
Coolness factor: 7
Overall entertainment: 8